On his 18th birthday my eldest son David went to Shooters Depot on Shallowford Road and purchased a Ruger 10/22, one of the world’s best .22-caliber semiautomatic rifles that comes with a standard-issue 10-bullet clip.
On the same day he received from me a .30-caliber rifle. He spent some time and effort to modify his two weapons to suit a need to be “ready.” This state of mind is very guy. A second son, 16, keeps asking me when I am going to Shooters Depot so he can have replaced a peep sight on a long gun I gave him for Christmas (he supposes he cannot transport it on a learner’s driving permit; will have to check on that).
John Martin, who owns Shooters Depot and deals with crowds of shoppers from behind the glass counter, understands the cultural frame of reference that makes Americans such as my sons seek a stake in the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. Since the Sandy Hook massacre of public school children, the caterwauling against lawful gun-owners such as David, local banker Melissa Lopez and former corrections worker Shawn Haas has increased in all official media.
It is said that massacres are the fault of pistols and rifles, and that to prevent angry and drug-addled people from going berserk, the rights of such common people as these need to be infringed by a holy prohibition, and the sooner the better.
‘High capacity’ firepower, personal responsibility
Mr. Martin, whose family opened Shooters Depot in April 2010, says Americans are an armed and free people, and that their insistence on exercising their rights is a bar to totalitarianism. Driving sales at Chattanooga gun shops today is ammo clip size: “It’s simply high capacity.”
He’s just talked about M1 carbines with customer Shawn Haas, 29, a former corrections officer who’s started work at Volkswagen. Mr. Haas explains why, at that moment, 13 customers are milling about the gunshop floor. “For their protection. It’s their right to protect themselves against anyone who wants to do them harm,” he says. “There’s not enough police and security to protect them. I don’t have a cop following me around every day to protect me. So it’s my responsibility.”
Nearby, Miss Lopez, the woman employed at FSG bank, makes a similar comment: “I enjoy being able to know that I can protect myself if I were ever in a situation that I would be called to do so. I also enjoy shooting for the fun of it.”
The spark igniting boom in business: Politicians
“Our sales are up 2½ times what they normally are,” Mr. Martin says. “I’m doing a month’s worth of work in a week. People are afraid they’re going to lose their firearm rights.”
We’ve ducked into Mr. Martin’s office. Should every American have a stake in the 2nd Amendment? “If you want to defend yourself you should. Police response is probably 3 to 12 minutes in most situations. In three minutes you could be gone as a perpetrator. I could be hurt or a dead. If you want to defend yourself you need a firearm. The police aren’t going to do it. The federal government can’t do it. Who’s going to do it? Your neighbor?”
I point out, as former judge Andrew Napolitano does in an excellent essay on Lewrockwell.com, that the United States lacks any lawful police power. That is left to the 50 states.
No pussyfooting from behind pistol counter
“Firearms were developed to take life, whether it was game or humans. It’s a lethal weapon,” Mr. Martin declares. “The same thing as a knife. Same thing as a spear. Same thing as an arrow. However, over time we have turned those items to other functions. Knives you can cook with — culinary. Knives you can do surgery with — to save lives. Firearms haven’t evolved that much. About all we do with firearms is entertain ourselves, and compete. Other than that, it is a weapon of destruction. And we teach responsible safety. We teach the law, provided by the state of Tennessee. We teach people how to use this weapon of destruction safely, so that they don’t harm anyone they do not intend to harm. We teach them the law and the law gives them the right to own a firearm and what they are allowed to do with that firearm. We don’t want a George Zimmerman and a Treyvon Martin situation here in Chattanooga.
“And thank God we haven’t had one yet. We have six handgun carry classes a week, David — six. We have 15 people in a class. You can do the math. That’s a hundred a week.
“People are afraid” because of a poor economy. “People are afraid. And now we got a president that’s making a bully platform saying he’s going to do something to curtail your rights to own a handgun or a long rifle, or, as he likes to constantly refer to it, an assault weapon — because it just looks like an M16.”
A gentle contradiction worth considering
“We as a population, we as a nation, have a right to defend ourselves against an aggressive nation. Our forefathers were talking about our own country. They weren’t talking about England, or France, or Iraq or Iran. They were talking about an aggressive nation that wanted to impose its will on us. That’s why it’s intrinsic. That’s why it’s important. We have the right to defend ourselves from an army that marches on us from Washington, D.C. Do you know that the largest army in the world is the state of Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota? There are more deer hunting licenses sold in Michigan and Wisconsin and Minnesota than the army of China. That’s why they’re afraid of America. That’s why our government is afraid of us because we have the right to defend ourselves.”
“So the United States is afraid of America — the United States Inc.?” I ask him why he is such a pessimist, given that firearms permeate American culture and are as rooted in it as the right to vote or the right of free speech.
Mr. Martin presses on in speculative bleakness into the next 50 to 100 years. “People will lose interest in the shooting sports, which is hunting and competition. Then the only guns that are going to be left are the guns that are truly personal and self-defense. And I believe that at some point in time the ability to own a firearm to protect yourself will be eradicated from this country. I believe that with all my heart.”
“Maybe they’ll go bankrupt first,” I growl.
“Maybe we will,” Mr. Martin says, breaking into a laugh.